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Identity Theft Complaints Again Top the List

The Federal Trade Commission today issued its annual report, “Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data” on fraud complaints consumers have filed with the agency. For the seventh year in a row, identity theft tops the list, accounting for 36 percent of the 674,354 complaints received between January 1 and December 31, 2006. Other categories near the top of the fraud complaint list include shop-at-home/catalog sales; prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries; Internet services and computer complaints; and Internet auction fraud.

“Consumers’ help in stopping unlawful operations is critical,” said Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. “By filing a complaint with the FTC, consumers are making information available to more than 1,600 law enforcement agencies that have access to our secure database.”

“It’s as easy as a click or a call,” she said. “The FTC has an online complaint form at, or consumers can reach us at 1-877-FTC-HELP.”

This year brought some firsts. For the first time, complaint data has been broken out by metropolitan statistical areas with populations greater than 100,000. Breakout data for more than 350 metropolitan areas can be found at And this year, complaint data has been sorted into16 categories. They are:

Rank Top Categories Complaints %
1 Identity Theft 246,035 36%
2 Shop-at-Home/Catalog Sales 46,995 7%
3 Prizes/Sweepstakes and Lotteries 45,587 7%
4 Internet Services and Computer Complaints 41,243 6%
5 Internet Auctions 32,832 5%
6 Foreign Money Offers 20,411 3%
7 Advance-Fee Loans and Credit Protection/Repair 10,857 2%
8 Magazines and Buyers Clubs 8,924 1%
9 Telephone Services 8,165 1%
10 Health Care 7,467 1%
11 Business Opportunities and Work-at-Home Plans 7,460 1%
12 Travel, Vacations, and Timeshare 6,712 1%
13 Office Supplies and Services 5,723 1%
14 Grants: Scholarships/Educational & Non-Educational 5,310 1%
15 Employment Agencies/Job Counselors/Overseas Work 4,485 1%
16 Investments 3,630 1%
  Other Coded Complaints 12,399 2%

This year, one major data contributor changed the way in which it codes complaints, and did not code many of its complaints, so comparisons with previous years’ complaint categories are difficult.

Other findings from the report include:

  • Consumers reported fraud losses totaling more than $1.1 billion; the median monetary loss was $500. Eighty-five percent of the consumers reporting fraud also reported an amount lost.

  • The percentage of fraud complaints with wire transfer as the reported payment method continues to increase. Twenty-three percent of the consumers reported wire transfer as the payment method, an increase of eight percentage points from calendar year 2005.

  • Credit card fraud (25 percent) was the most common form of reported identity theft, followed by phone or utilities fraud (16 percent), bank fraud (16 percent), and employment fraud (14 percent).

Audio files available to download are linked to this press release on the FTC’s Web site, These MP3 files, to support news stories on radio and television, include quotes in both English and Spanish on the overall announcement, as well as advice on what consumers can do to avoid fraud.

Copies of the report, Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data - January-December 2006 are available from the FTC’s Web site at and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877- 382-4357), or use the complaint form at The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Media Contact:

Claudia Bourne Farrell or Jacqueline Dizdul
Office of Public Affairs